Courtney Bevan, a Commonwealth Parenting family educator specializing in families and children who have special needs, attends the Special Nights for Special Needs at the Children’s Museum of Richmond locations. She says during the events, she talks with parents – providing support and resources – and engages with the children. Here she offers parents 10 ways to advocate for their special needs child.
1. Organization and documentation.
Keep accurate documentation about when, where and what preceded particular negative behaviors. Be aware of any patterns you notice.
2. Always ask why.
There is no such thing as asking too many questions when it comes to your child’s well-being. When talking with doctors or caregivers about treatment options and their opinions of which may be best for your child, even if you don’t have any specific questions right then, always ask “why?”
As a parent it is important to acknowledge your own strengths, weaknesses and limitations. Ask for help from others in the areas you know you are weaker in.
4. Your child’s teacher is your best ally.
Forming a positive relationship with your child’s teacher is important when it comes time to determine the best way and environment to educate your child.
5. Set realistic goals.
It’s important to be realistic when it comes to making changes. Don’t try to change everything at once. Target two or three behaviors that are most important and make a plan – then be consistent!
6. Get help from other professionals.
Be sure you are getting services that are best for your child and necessary for their development. Most professionals have the best intentions but it can never hurt to get a second or third opinion.
7. Know your and your child’s rights.
The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) was a law developed to protect children with special needs and disabilities. IDEA, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, is another law that defines the process and guidelines that must be met when determining a child’s education.
8. Be seen, be present.
Be present in the different circles your child is being serviced. Let teachers, administrators and doctors hear from you via email or phone and get involved in events that are not just for special needs children.
9. Bring backup.
Attending meetings and appointments for your child can be scary – bring a friend or family member to support you.
10. Don’t be concerned what others may think about you.
Don’t be afraid to be that “crazy” mom who is overly involved with her child. You know your child best and are the voice for that child until he/she is old enough. Just remember, “The squeakiest wheel always gets the most grease.” ■